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Whiskey distillery pitched for Middlebury location

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Posted on April 26, 2012 |
By John Flowers



MIDDLEBURY — People seeking architectural software services at the Friday Group LLC’s headquarters at 88 Mainelli Road will soon be in store for a gastronomic bonus.

The 6,000-square-foot building will soon be home to the Champlain Valley Creamery, makers of award-winning organic cream cheese. And that cheese company could soon be joined by a whiskey distillery, the plans for which the Friday Group LLC President Lars Hubbard recently submitted to the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB).

It was last September that the Addison Independentreported Hubbard’s preliminary plans for the 88 Mainelli Road building, which he acquired out of foreclosure. The Friday Group — which provides architectural specification services and related software to clients throughout the world who are designing large and complex buildings — moved into the structure five months ago. Champlain Valley Creamery has begun its relocation to a 2,000-square-foot space within the Middlebury building from its current home in the Kennedy Brothers Factory Marketplace in Vergennes.

“I think they will be fully moved in my May,” Hubbard said on Tuesday.

The third and final piece of Hubbard’s business plan moved closer to reality early this month when he filed plans for the Appalachian Gap Distillery.

The proposed distillery, Hubbard explained, would provide a creative outlet for a longtime interest he has developed in making potent potables. Hubbard, a former chef, has been making his own beer for decades. He has also taken a stab at making wine and has developed a palate for whiskey. The Friday Group currently has a library of 14 varieties, he noted.

“It seemed like a logical progression of a silly hobby,” Hubbard joked about his distillery plans.

But while Hubbard describes his whiskey plan in playful terms, he is aware that it is a product with good potential.

“(Whiskey distilling) is like the microbrewery growth that happened in the 1980s,” Hubbard said. He said an increasing number of entrepreneurs are taking on the big whiskey manufacturers.

“They are popping up all over the place,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard is currently pricing distillery equipment as the DRB prepares to evaluate his plan, which calls for Hubbard to acquire the raw products — corn and barley — from local farmers. Appalachian Gap Distillery will make a mash out of those ingredients, a process through which they are steeped in hot water. This activates the malt enzymes and converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars. That substance is then fermented, distilled, aged and bottled.

Hubbard’s application calls for:

• Whiskey production to take place Tuesday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hubbard’s plans call for a tasting room to allow for the product to be sampled on weekends.

• The distillery to generate 140 cases of product per month, once the operation gets into full swing. Appalachian Gap whiskey will be marketed in-state, according to Hubbard.

• One third of the whiskey to be aged on-site in oak barrels. The remainder will either be bottled immediately or aged briefly in stainless steel.

Hubbard anticipates the business will require as much as 1,800 gallons of municipal water per week. The distillery would generate an estimated 1.5 tons of waste grain per month, which would either be given to local farms for animal feed or shipped out for composting.

The DRB will conduct its first review of the Appalachian Gap application on May 14. Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said a whiskey distillery is an allowable use in the town’s industrial park, which already hosts a beer company (Wolaver’s/Otter Creek) and Vermont Hard Cider Co.

Appalachian Gap would be the second whiskey distillery to lay down roots in Addison County. Shoreham is home to the WhistlePig brand of rye whiskey.

If all goes according to plan, Hubbard hopes to be making whiskey within the next four months. He anticipates initially hiring one new employee to work the distillery, with additional workers brought on as demand warrants.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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